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How Gladys Knight & The Pips' "Midnight Train To Georgia" Cemented Their Legacy In Soul
Gladys Knight & the Pips' 1973 album 'Imagination' was a major turning point for the band. In an interview with Merald "Bubba" Knight jr, learn the story behind GRAMMY-winning hit "Midnight Train To Georgia," which was released in August 50 years ago.
Early in 1973, Gladys Knight & the Pips made a series of bold moves. The charismatic soul quartet — Gladys, her brother Merald "Bubba" Knight jr, and cousins William Guest and Edward Patten — severed ties with one of the era’s biggest hitmakers, signed with a fledgling new label short on cash but big on ambition, and handpicked collaborators who understood their potential.
All these decisions were vindicated by the group’s soul-stirring album Imagination, released in October 1973. Packed with slow-burning ballads and rousing mid-tempos, the album helped establish Gladys Knight & the Pips as a formidable entity within soul and popular music writ large. Co-produced by the group, Imagination peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard 200 and bore several Top 10 hits, including the song that would quickly become the group’s signature: the chart-topping, GRAMMY-winning, and utterly timeless "Midnight Train to Georgia."
Yet just 10 months prior to Imagination’s release, the group’s prospects were unclear. Their seven-year contract with Motown Records was due to expire, presenting them with an opportunity to jump aboard a different train.
Unlike many Motown stars who were plucked from high school and groomed for success, Gladys Knight & the Pips arrived at the label from Atlanta as seasoned performers, having already performed grueling stints on the Chitlin' Circuit and at Harlem’s Apollo Theater. They had even experienced chart success with their cover of the Royals’ "Every Beat of My Heart" (a No. 6 pop hit in 1961). "Gladys could ‘sang,’" wrote Motown founder Berry Gordy in his autobiography. "She had warm Southern charm and a hint of Country soul, mixed in with an infectious Gospel feel."
However, the group felt neglected in favor of big-hitters like the Temptations, the Four Tops, and, especially, Diana Ross and the Supremes. According to Gladys’ autobiography, Gordy once removed the group’s supporting slot on a Supremes tour. Why? Their riotous live performances were deflecting from the main act. "We felt at Motown like we were adopted," Bubba tells GRAMMY.com, also noting accounting practices at the label which the group found "distasteful."
Gladys Knight & the Pips did experience chart success at Motown: their spirited recording of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" was a No. 2 pop hit in 1967. But in the twilight of their initial contract, the group flirted with other opportunities. "We wanted to go to a label where we would be a big fish in a small pond, as opposed to a small fish in a big pond," explains Bubba.
The group were soon courted by New York-based label Buddah Records. "They had all the qualities of a hit group," says Buddah Vice President Cecil Holmes, who admits spending a year "romancing" the group, noting also their "clean cut, no drugs" reputation. As a new, smaller label unable to compete financially with the industry’s bigger fish, Buddah sold themselves on passion.
Fellow Buddah executive Ron Weisner, who would later manage Gladys as well as Madonna and Michael Jackson, remembers Buddah’s pitch to the group: "We don't have this ridiculous amount of money to give you. We give you our word — we’re going to kill for you. Whatever you’re looking to do, we're going to make it successful."
In February 1973, it was announced that Gladys Knight & the Pips had left Motown and signed with Buddah. Their swan song was the GRAMMY-winning "Neither One of Us (Wants to be the First to Say Goodbye)," penned and first recorded by country musician Jim Weatherly – whose songbook the group were keen to revisit.
After meeting with various producers, they enlisted Richie Wise, Kenny Kerner, and Tony Camillo to work on their upcoming album. Their first Buddah single was the gorgeous Weatherly ballad "Where Peaceful Waters Flow." However, their next single would define their careers.
Gladys Knight & The Pips Reinvent A Country Ballad
But before Gladys Knight & the Pips boarded the midnight train to Georgia, Weatherly flew the midnight plane to Houston. As explained to Marc Myers for the oral history project Anatomy of a Song, Weatherly called his actor friend Lee Majors one evening in 1970. The actress Farrah Fawcett, Majors’ then-girlfriend, answered the call, telling Weatherly she was preparing to take a "midnight plane to Houston" to visit family.
Struck by the accidental poetry of Fawcett’s remark, Weatherly wrote a country ballad about a man accompanying his girlfriend back to Houston after her dreams of stardom in Los Angeles failed to materialize. "The line ‘I’d rather live in her world than live without her in mine’ locked the whole song," said Weatherly, who released "Midnight Plane to Houston" on his 1972 album Weatherly.
The song was next recorded by gospel singer Cissy Houston, whose background work as part of the Sweet Inspirations provided color and richness to the music of Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, and Jimi Hendrix. Her gospel-country ballad was released in early 1973 as "Midnight Train to Georgia," a lyric change she requested. "My people are originally from Georgia, and they didn’t take planes to Houston or anywhere else. They took trains," she told Myers.
Yet Cissy’s gender-flipped and lyrically-altered rendition stalled commercially, which she blamed on limited promotion by her label Janus. Weatherly recounted to Myers that his publisher then sent the song to Gladys Knight & the Pips. "I listened to Cissy’s version and loved it," mentioned Gladys in her account to Myers.
However, Gladys has claimed in her autobiography and in various interviews that she conceived the central change from "plane" to "train" and "Houston" to "Georgia." Bubba echoes this, adding emphatically that "we voted for Gladys to call Jim Weatherly and find out if we could change the title and some of the lyrical content." He elaborates: "Ray Charles had "Georgia On My Mind" and that was the theme song for Georgia. We wanted something to represent our hometown as well."
There is some scope to reconcile these accounts. In a different interview, Weatherly explained that it was in fact his original song that was sent to Gladys Knight & the Pips, rather than Cissy’s re-titled version. "We had no idea it was going to stay ‘Midnight Train to Georgia,’" he said. "We were pitching ‘Midnight Plane to Houston’ but Gladys wanted to change it."
Engineer Ed Stasium also remembers that the sheet music for his sessions with the group had the original title which was subsequently updated. It is therefore plausible that the Gladys and the Pips organically envisaged the same or similar lyric changes before becoming aware of Cissy’s version (though Bubba tells GRAMMY.com he never knew Cissy’s version existed at the time the group recorded the song).
Stasium engineered three mixes of "Midnight Train to Georgia" in total. He describes the first two mixes as "way slower" than the final product, a "similar vibe" to mellower Imagination tracks "Perfect Love" and "Once in a Lifetime Thing." "Totally a whole other record," adds engineer David Domanich. (On one mix, Camillo can be heard singing "midnight train to Atlanta" when mapping out guide backing vocals.) The group rejected these mixes for being too sedate.
"I wanted an Al Green thing going," Gladys told Myers. "Something moody, with a little ride to it." After burying himself in Al Green records, Camillo hurriedly convened the session musicians at his Venture Sound Studios in New Jersey to blast out a new arrangement which Stasium quickly engineered.
Gladys Knight & the Pips at the 1974 GRAMMYs | CBS via Getty Images
The group were thrilled with this muscular, earthier mix. Recording in Artie Fields Studios in Detroit, Gladys delivered a "scratch" vocal to help the Pips organize their background parts before recording a "serious" take. "She sang the meat of the song beautifully but, at that particular time, my sister had a problem with ad-libbing," remembers Bubba, who proceeded to the engineer’s desk to issue instructions to her. "I told Gladys: ‘When you get to this part go, "I got to go, I got to go!" Gladys followed her brother’s lead, resulting in the joyous, life-affirming ad libs we hear on the record.
Organ, horn, strings, and piano (inspired by Floyd Cramer, pianist Barry Miles notes) were later overdubbed. Stasium also "punched in" an additional ad-lib which Gladys recorded in New York. By the end, Weatherly’s docile country ballad was transformed into an undeniable R&B juggernaut, an energetic dialogue between Gladys and her Pips. It reached No.1 in October 1973 and later won a GRAMMY award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus.
Imagination Yields Further Hits
The Imagination album was also released in October, and was certified "gold" by the end of that year. Five out of nine tracks were written by Weatherly. The other four: the Barry Goldberg/Gerry Goffin tune "I’ve Got to Use My Imagination," covers of Paul Williams’ "Perfect Love" and Johnny Nash’s "I Can See Clearly Now," and the Gladys Knight & the Pips-penned "Window Raisin’ Granny" – inspired by the image of Gladys and Bubba’s mother standing by the window watching her children, nieces, and nephews’ early performance routines.
The propulsive, funky "I’ve Got to Use My Imagination" was the album’s third single. Goldberg tells GRAMMY.com that he wrote the song as a simmering blues number – influenced by Marvin Gaye’s version of "Grapevine" and BB King’s "The Thrill is Gone" – and assumes the romantic anguish of Goffin’s lyric ("Such a sad, sad season / When a good love dies…") was inspired by Goffin’s recent divorce from songwriting partner Carole King. Goldberg was astounded when he first heard Gladys Knight & the Pips’ pacier rendition, conceding that the song "wouldn’t have been a hit" if recorded as originally written (it peaked at No.4 pop). Fourth single "Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me," another Weatherly ballad first released by country singer Ray Price, peaked at No. 3.
Imagination was the triumph the group needed, not only giving them several hits but demonstrating their talents as co-producers and justifying their decision to leave Motown. "[Buddah] promoted us and our music like nobody had before," wrote Gladys in her autobiography, crediting the label for further opportunities for the group such as recording the Curtis Mayfield-scored soundtrack for the film Claudine.
"The success of the Imagination album took us to another level," opines Bubba. "Our career just took off. Our level of headlining took off. It took us to European tours." "Midnight Train to Georgia" and "Best Thing that Ever Happened to Me" also became UK Top 10 hits, laying the groundwork for Gladys’ strong touring presence across the pond to this day. These two Imagination tracks also sit in the top 5 most streamed Gladys Knight & the Pips songs on Spotify.
Subsequent Buddah releases would not reach Imagination’s levels of mainstream popularity. But, particularly from 1974-'75, other well-performing albums would follow for the group, with pop/R&B hits including "On and On," "I Feel a Song (In My Heart)," their soulful rendering of Barbra Streisand’s "The Way We Were," and "Part Time Love." They had no reason to hanker for the days of Motown.
Of course, "Midnight Train to Georgia" remains the most enduring of Imagination’s tracks and the group’s entire repertoire. Fifty years later, this song about stubborn loyalty remains stubbornly in the popular consciousness as one of (soul) music’s definitive anthems, with a wider cultural impact too. It has been covered by the likes of Joss Stone, Neil Diamond, and Aretha Franklin, parodied in TV series like "Modern Family" and "30 Rock" (which featured a Gladys cameo), and has become a staple on talent shows like "American Idol" and "The Voice."
It turns out there were actually no midnight trains departing from L.A. to Georgia in the early ‘70s, but Gladys Knight & the Pips sure make it sound like a journey worth taking.
20 Albums Turning 50 In 2023: 'Innervisions,' 'Dark Side Of The Moon' 'Catch A Fire' & More
1973 saw a slew of influential records released across genres — many of which broke barriers and set standards for music to come. GRAMMY.com reflects on 20 albums that, despite being released 50 years ago, continue to resonate with listeners today.
Fifty years ago, a record-breaking 600,000 people gathered to see the Grateful Dead, the Allman Brothers Band and the Band play Summer Jam at Watkins Glen. This is just one of many significant historical events that happened in 1973 — a year that changed the way music was seen, heard and experienced.
Ongoing advancements in music-making tech expanded the sound of popular and underground music. New multi-track technology was now standard in recording studios from Los Angeles to London. Artists from a variety of genres experimented with new synthesizers, gadgets like the Mu-Tron III pedal and the Heil Talk Box, and techniques like the use of found sounds.
1973 was also a year of new notables, where now-household names made their debuts. Among these auspicious entries: a blue-collar songwriter from the Jersey Shore, hard-working southern rockers from Jacksonville, Fla. and a sister group from California oozing soul.
Along a well-established format, '73 saw the release of several revolutionary concept records. The Eagles’ Desperado, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Lou Reed’s Berlin and the Who’s Quadrophenia are just a few examples that illustrate how artists used narrative techniques to explore broader themes and make bigger statements on social, political and economic issues — of which there were many.
On the domestic front, 1973 began with the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Roe v. Wade. Internationally, the Paris Peace Accords were signed — starting the long process to end the Vietnam War. An Oil crisis caused fuel prices to skyrocket in North America. Richard Nixon started his short-lived second term as president, which was marked by the Watergate scandal.
Politics aside, the third year of the '70s had it all: from classic- and southern-rock to reggae; punk to jazz; soul and R&B to country. Read on for 20 masterful albums with something to say that celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2023.
Band On The Run - Paul McCartney & Wings
Laid down at EMI’s studio in Lagos, Nigeria and released in December 1973, the third studio record by Paul Mcartney & Wings is McCartney’s most successful post-Beatles album. Its hit singles "Jet" and the title cut "Band on the Run" helped make the record the biggest-selling in 1974 in both Australia and Canada.
Band on the Run won a pair of GRAMMYS the following year: Best Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus and Best Engineered Recording, Non-Classical. McCartney added a third golden gramophone for this record at the 54th awards celebration when it won Best Historical Album for the 2010 reissue. In 2013, Band on the Run was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame.
Head Hunters - Herbie Hancock
Released Oct. 13, Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters was recorded in just one week; its
four songs clock in at just over 40 minutes. That the album was not nominated in the jazz category, but instead Best Pop Instrumental Performance, demonstrates how Hancock was shifting gears.
Head Hunters showed Hancock moving away from traditional instrumentation and playing around with new synthesizer technology — especially the clavinet — and putting together a new band: the Headhunters. Improvisation marks this as a jazz record, but the phrasing, rhythms and dynamics of Hancock’s new quintet makes it equal parts soul and R&B with sprinkles of rock 'n' roll.
The album represented a commercial and artistic breakthrough for Hancock, going gold within months of its release. "Watermelon Man" and "Chameleon," which was nominated for a Best Instrumental GRAMMY Award in 1974, were later both frequently sampled by hip-hop artists in the 1990s.
Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. - Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen, 22, was the new kid in town in 1973. This debut was met with tepid reviews. Still, Greetings introduced Springsteen’s talent to craft stories in song and includes many characters The Boss would return to repeatedly in his career. The album kicks off with the singalong "Blinded by the Light," which reached No. 1 on the Billboard 100 four years later via a cover done by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. This was the first of two records Springsteen released in 1973; The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle arrived before the end of the year — officially introducing the E Street Band.
Innervisions - Stevie Wonder
This Stevie Wonder masterpiece shows an artist, in his early 20s, experimenting with new instrumentation such as TONTO (The Original New Timbral Orchestra) — the world’s largest synth — and playing all instruments on the now-anthemic "Higher Ground."
The song reached No.1 on the U.S. Hot R&B Singles Chart, and Innervisions peaked at No. 4. The album won three GRAMMYS the following year, including Album Of The Year. Wonder was the first Black artist to win this coveted golden gramophone. In 1989, Red Hot Chili Peppers kept the original funk, but injected the song with a lot of rock on their cover — the lead single from Mother’s Milk.
The Dark Side Of The Moon - Pink Floyd
Critics perennially place this Pink Floyd album, the band's eighth studio record, as one of the greatest of all-time. The Dark Side of the Moon hit No.1 and stayed on the Billboard charts for 63 weeks.
A sonic masterpiece marked by loops, synths, found sounds, and David Gilmour’s guitar bends, Dark Side of the Moon is also a concept record that explores themes of excessive greed on tracks like "Money." Ironically, an album lambasting consumerism was the top-selling record of the year and has eclipsed 45 million sales worldwide since its release. The album’s cover has also become one of the most recognized in the history of popular music.
Pronounced 'lĕh-'nérd 'skin-'nérd - Lynyrd Skynyrd
This debut release features several of the northern Florida rockers' most beloved songs: "Gimme Three Steps," "Tuesday’s Gone" and "Simple Man." The record, which has since reached two-times platinum status with sales of more than two million, also includes the anthemic "Free Bird," which catapulted them to stardom. The song with its slow-build and definitive guitar solo and jam in the middle became Lynyrd Skynyrd's signature song that ended all their shows; it also became a piece of pop culture with people screaming for this song during concerts by other artists.
Houses Of The Holy - Led Zeppelin
The first Led Zeppelin record of all originals — and the first without a Roman numeral for a title — Houses of the Holy shows a new side of these British hardrockers. Straying from the blues and hard rock of previous records, Houses of the Holy features funk (“The Ocean” and “The Crunge”) and even hints of reggae (“D’Yer Mak’er”). This fifth studio offering from Page, Plant, Jones and Bonham also includes one of this writer’s personal Zeppelin favorites — "Over the Hills and Far Away.” The song was released as the album’s first U.S. single and reached No. 51 on the Billboard charts. Despite mixed reviews from critics, Houses of the Holy eventually achieved Diamond status for sales of more than 10 million. Interesting fact: the song “Houses of the Holy” actually appears on the band’s next record (Physical Graffiti).
Quadrophenia - The Who
The double-album rock opera followed the critical success of Tommy and Who’s Next. Pete Townshend composed all songs on this opus, which was later adapted into a movie. And, in 2015, classically-scored by Townshend’s partner Rachel Fuller for a new generation via a symphonic version (“Classic Quadrophenia”). The story chronicles the life of a young mod named Jimmy who lives in the seaside town of Brighton, England. Jimmy searches for meaning in a life devoid of significance — taking uppers, downers and guzzling gin only to discover nothing fixes his malaise. With sharp-witted songs, Townshend also tackles classicism. His band of musical brothers: Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle and Keith Moon provide some of their finest recorded performances. The album reached second spot on the U.S. Billboard chart.
Berlin - Lou Reed
Produced by Bob Ezrin, Berlin is a metaphor. The divided walled city represents the divisive relationships and the two sides of Reed — on stage and off. The 10 track concept record chronicles a couple’s struggles with drug addiction, meditating on themes of domestic abuse and neglect. As a parent, try to listen to "The Kids" without shedding a tear. While the couple on the record are named Caroline and Jim, those who knew Reed’s volatile nature and drug dependency saw the parallels between this fictionalized narrative and the songwriter’s life.
Catch A Fire - Bob Marley & the Wailers
The original cover was enclosed in a sleeve resembling a Zippo lighter. Only 20,000 of this version were pressed. Even though it was creative and cool, cost-effective it was not — each individual cover had to be hand-riveted. The replacement, which most people know today, introduces reggae poet and prophet Robert Nesta Marley to the world. With a pensive stare and a large spliff in hand, Marley tells you to mellow out and listen to the tough sounds of his island home.
While Bob and his Wailers had been making music for nearly a decade and released several records in Jamaica, Catch a Fire was their coming out party outside the Caribbean. Released in April on Island Records, the feel-good reggae rhythms and Marley’s messages of emancipation resonated with a global audience. A mix of songs of protest ("Slave Driver," "400 years") and love ("Kinky Reggae"), Catch A Fire is also notable for "Stir it Up," a song American singer-songwriter Johnny Nash had made a Top 15 hit the previous year.
The New York Dolls - The New York Dolls
The New York Dolls burst on the club scene in the Big Apple, building a cult following with their frenetic and unpredictable live shows. The Dolls' hard rock sound and f-you attitude waved the punk banner before the genre was coined, and influenced the sound of punk rock for generations. (Bands like the Sex Pistols, the Ramones and KISS, cite the New York Dolls as mentors.) Singer-songwriter Todd Rundgren — who found time to release A Wizard, A True Star this same year — produced this tour de force. From the opening "Personality Crisis," this five-piece beckons you to join this out-of-control train.
Aladdin Sane - David Bowie
This David Bowie record followed the commercial success of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders from Mars. Many critics unfairly compare the two. A career chameleon, with Aladdin Sane, Bowie shed the Ziggy persona and adopted another alter-ego. The title is a pun that means: "A Lad Insane." For the songwriter, this record represented an attempt to break free from the crazed fandom Ziggy Stardust had created.
A majority of the songs were written the previous year while Bowie toured the United States in support of Ziggy. Journal in hand, the artist traveled from city to city in America and the songs materialized. Most paid homage to what this “insane lad” observed and heard: from debauchery and societal decay ("Cracked Actor") to politics ("Panic in Detroit") to punk music ("Watch That Man"). Top singles on Aladdin Sane were: "The Jean Genie" and "Drive-In Saturday." Both topped the U.K. charts.
Faust IV -Faust
This fourth studio album — and the final release in this incarnation by this experimental avant-garde German ambient band — remains a cult classic. Recorded at the Manor House in Oxfordshire, England (Richard Branson’s new Virgin Records studio and the locale where Mike Oldfield crafted his famous debut Tubular Bells, also released in 1973), Faust IV opens with the epic 11-minute instrumental "Krautrock" — a song that features drones, clusters of tones and sustained notes to create a trance-like vibe. Drums do not appear in the song until after the seven minute mark.
The song is a tongue-in-cheek nod to the genre British journalists coined to describe bands like Faust, which musicians largely did not embrace. The rest of Faust IV is a sonic exploration worthy of repeated listens and a great place to start if you’ve ever wondered what the heck Krautrock is.
Brothers & Sisters - the Allman Brothers Band
Great art is often born from grief, and Brothers & Sisters is exemplary in this way. Founding member Duanne Allman died in 1971 and bassist Berry Oakley followed his bandmate to the grave a year later; he was killed in a motorcycle accident in November 1972. Following this pair of tragedies, the band carried on the only way they knew how: by making music.
With new members hired, Brothers & Sisters was recorded with guitarist Dicky Betts as the new de facto band leader. The Allman Brothers Band’s most commercially successful record leans into country territory from the southern rock of previous releases and features two of the band’s most popular songs: "Ramblin’ Man" and "Jessica." The album went gold within 48 hours of shipping and since has sold more than seven million copies worldwide.
Call Me - Al Green
Call Me is considered one of the greatest soul records of the 20th century and Green’s pièce de résistance. The fact this Al Green album features three Top 10 Billboard singles — "You Ought to Be With Me," "Here I Am" and the title track — helps explain why it remains a masterpiece. Beyond the trio of hits, the soul king shows his versatility by reworking a pair of country songs: Hank Williams’ "I’m so Lonesome I Could Cry," and Willie Nelson’s "Funny How Time Slips Away."
Killing Me Softly - Roberta Flack
This Roberta Flack album was nominated for three GRAMMY Awards and won two: Record Of The Year and Best Female Vocal Pop Performance at the 1974 GRAMMYs (it lost in the Album of the Year category to Innervisions). With equal parts soul and passion, Flack interprets beloved ballads that showcase her talent of taking others’ songs and reinventing them. Producer Joel Dorn assembled the right mix of players to back up Flack — adding to the album’s polished sound. Killing Me Softly has sold more than two million copies and, in 2020, Roberta Flack received the GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award.
The album's title cut became a No.1 hit in three countries and, in 1996, the Fugees prominently featured Lauryn Hill on a version that surpassed the original: landing the No.1 spot in 21 countries. The album also includes a pair of well-loved covers: Leonard Cohen’s "Suzanne" and Janis Ian’s wistful "Jesse," which reached No. 30.
Bette Midler - Bette Middler
Co-produced by Arif Mardin and Barry Manilow, the self-titled second studio album by Bette Midler was an easy- listening experience featuring interpretations of both standards and popular songs. Whispers of gospel are mixed with R&B and some boogie-woogie piano, though Midler’s voice is always the star. The record opens with a nod to the Great American Songbook with a reworking of Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael’s "Skylark." The 10-song collection also features a take on Glenn Miller’s "In the Mood," and a divine cover of Bob Dylan’s "I Shall be Released." The record peaked at No. 6 on the U.S. charts.
Imagination - Gladys Knight & the Pips
Released in October, Imagination was Gladys Knight & the Pips' first album with Buddha Records after leaving Motown, and features the group’s only No. 1 Billboard hit: "Midnight Train to Georgia." The oft-covered tune, which won a GRAMMY the following year, and became the band’s signature, helped the record eclipse a million in sales, but it was not the only single to resonate. Other timeless, chart-topping songs from Imagination include "Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me," and "I’ve Got to Use My Imagination."
The Pointer Sisters - The Pointer Sisters
The three-time GRAMMY-winning Pointer Sisters arrived on the scene in 1973 with this critically-acclaimed self-titled debut. Then a quartet, the group of sisters from Oakland, California made listeners want to shake a tail feather with 10 songs that ranged from boogie-woogie to bebop. Their sisterly harmonies are backed up by the San Francisco blues-funk band the Hoodoo Rhythm Devils. The record opens with "Yes We Can," a hypnotic groove of a song written by Allen Toussaint which was a Top 15 hit alongside another cover, Willie Dixon’s "Wang Dang Doodle."
Behind Closed Doors - Charlie Rich
This pop-leaning country record of orchestral ballads, produced by Billy Sherrill, made Rich rich. The album has surpassed four million in sales and remains one of the genre’s best-loved classics. The album won Charlie Rich a GRAMMY the following year for Best Country Vocal Performance Male and added four Country Music Awards. Behind Closed Doors had several hits, but the title track made the most impact. The song written by Kenny O’Dell, and whose title was inspired by the Watergate scandal, was the first No.1 hit for Rich. It topped the country charts where it spent 20 weeks in 1973. It was also a Billboard crossover hit — reaching No. 15 on the Top 100 and No. 8 on the Adult Contemporary charts.
Gladys Knight & Patti LaBelle in 2014
Photo: Walter McBride/Getty Images
Gladys Knight & Patti LaBelle's Verzuz Faceoff Was A Moment Of Pure Soul Sisterhood
"There's nothing I don't love that you might sing tonight. So, let's just get it clear, I'm ready for you honey," LaBelle said to her longtime friend and fellow R&B/soul icon
Last night (Sept. 13), GRAMMY-winning music icons Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight brought a big serving of soul and sisterhood to the latest Verzuz faceoff. During the livestream's joyful three hours, the powerhouse pair sang 35 songs (including two renditions of "Midnight Train To Georgia") selected from their gem-filled catalogues dating back 60 years. In between the music, the two R&B/soul greats showered each other with praise and offered nuggets of wisdom, humor and shout-outs to the star-studded virtual audience, which included the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama.
"I love that tune," LaBelle praised after Knight's first rendition of "Midnight Train To Georgia" and just about halfway into the faceoff. "There's nothing I don't love that you might sing tonight. So, let's just get it clear, I'm ready for you honey."
The evening's rich setlist included selections from their early acts—LaBelle's fabulous girl group Labelle and Knight's family affair Gladys Knight & the Pips—as well as their longtime solo acts. This included LaBelle's "Lady Marmalade," If You Don't Know Me By Now" and "Love, Need and Want You" and Knight's "Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)," "Friendship Train" and "Love Overboard."
They both sang along to their songs—for the most part, joking about forgetting some of the lyrics to the older songs—with their warm voices and still-epic high notes offering comfort during these hectic times. They also sang along with each other, as this Verzuz was not a battle, but a moment for the musical powerhouses to show each other some love and appreciation. They also shared the love for their collaborators, children, viewers and the Verzuz and Apple Music team (who recently partnered with the Swizz Beatz- and Timbaland-created event). Swizzy got warm birthday wishes (he was born Sept. 13) and wow, what a great way to celebrate being alive.
After their seventh-round faceoff, where LaBelle sang "Love, Need and Want You" and Knight delivered "Someone to Watch Over Me," the pair began talking warmly about their children. Knight revealed she didn't know about Verzuz until her son Shanga called her up and encouraged her to try to get on in, which she did. "I hope you're proud of us, sons," she said. We also learned that LaBelle still has a flip phone. "I love my flip. I'm very low-key," she shared with a smile.
When they saw the Former First Lady pop up in the viewer list, or as LaBelle dubbed it "the virtual front row," they were both genuinely thrilled and sent love and praise her way. "I am so proud of her," Knight chimed in, adding, "She's a sweetheart and she's down to earth." "And she's married to the best man in the whole world," the both chimed in. "We miss you Michelle and Barack," LaBelle said.
In addition to the many notable virtual guests, there was a very special in-studio guest—Dionne Warwick, who helped close out the evening with an extra dose of sisterhood. The three musical heroes sang Warwick's "That's What Friends Are For" and their 1991 remake of Karyn White's female empowerment hit, "Superwoman."
If you missed the much-needed evening of wholesome, heartwarming and soul-stirring content, you can watch the last half or so in the YouTube video above.
The LaBelle and Knight Verzuz follows Brandy and Monica's also-amazing showdown on Aug. 31. In addition to the huge number of viewers who tune into the streams via IGTV and Apple TV, the much-buzzed-about episodes always lead to a boost in interest in the featured artists and their music. In the case of the '90s R&B queens, their episode was watched by over 60 million viewers and they collectively logged 21.9 million U.S. streams in just the two days following. Stay tuned to Verzuz' Instagram for the data behind the Knight and LaBelle love fest, as well as for info on upcoming T.B.A. pairings. Here's to the love being showered back onto the soul queens.
Miley Cyrus performs during the Global Goal: Unite For Our Future - Summit & Concert
Photo: Vijat Mohindra/Getty Images
Global Goal 2020: Watch Performances From Miley Cyrus, Shakira, J Balvin, Jennifer Hudson, Usher And More
The globally televised and digitally streamed concert special featured intimate and grandiose performances from some of music's biggest stars including Lin-Manuel Miranda with the "Hamilton" cast, Coldplay, Christine and the Queens, Chloe x Halle and many
The international music and entertainment communities united together Saturday (June 27) for the star-studded "Global Goal: Unite for Our Future - The Concert," a globally televised and digitally streamed concert special. Presented by international advocacy organization Global Citizen and the European Commission, the event aimed to highlight the "disproportionate impact COVID-19 has on marginalized communities," according to a press release announcing the event, and to advance the development of and access to coronavirus tests, treatments and vaccines.
Global Goal featured both intimate and grandiose performances from some of music's biggest stars, including: Jennifer Hudson, who opened the show with a cover of Gladys Knight & The Pips' 1973 hit "Where Peaceful Waters Flow" while floating atop a boat on the Chicago River; Miley Cyrus, who performed a cover of The Beatles classic "Help!" in an empty Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena, Calif.; and Lin-Manuel Miranda who reunited with the original Broadway cast of "Hamilton," alongside late-night host Jimmy Fallon and "The Tonight Show" house band The Roots, for a rare performance of musical number "Helpless."
Hosted by Hollywood superstar Dwayne Johnson, Global Goal also included appearances and video messages from TV and film icons including Hugh Jackman, Kerry Washington, Charlize Theron, Chris Rock, Billy Porter, Ken Jeong, Salma Hayek Pinault and several more.
The event also included a summit, which featured panel discussions and interviews with global leaders, experts and thought-leaders like Angelique Kidjo, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Melinda Gates, Dr. Vin Gupta, NAACP President Derrick Johnson, Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and others.
Airing in more than 180 countries and streaming globally online, Global Goal raised a total of $6.9 billion in pledges, according to a press release from Global Citizen.
Watch some of the musical highlights from "Global Goal: Unite for Our Future - The Concert" below, and learn more about Global Citizen's COVID-19 campaign.
Gladys Knight & The Pips at the 1974 GRAMMYs
GRAMMY Rewind: Watch Gladys Knight & The Pips Perform "Midnight Train To Georgia" At The 16th GRAMMY Awards
The iconic soul and R&B act earned their first two golden gramophones that night at the 1974 GRAMMYs
Back in 1973, pivotal Atlanta soul and R&B group Gladys Knight & The Pips released their powerful No. 1 hit "Midnight Train To Georgia." The following year, they performed a rousing rendition at the 16th GRAMMY Awards, with Knight stunning in a shimmering gown and The Pips showing off their perfect "Soul Train"-ready dance moves.
The former Motown act earned their first two golden gramophones that night: Best R&B Vocal Performance By A Duo, Group Or Chorus for "Midnight Train" and Best Pop Vocal Performance By A Duo, Group Or Chorus for "Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye)."
The song was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame in 1999. Another one of their classic tracks, "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," released via Motown in 1967, earned a GRAMMY Hall Of Fame induction in 2018.
The Atlanta group went on to earn several more GRAMMY nominations over the years and one more win, at the 31st GRAMMY Awards in 1989 in the Best R&B Performance category again. This award went to "Love Overboard," the fabulously synthed opening track to 1987's All Our Love. Knight has earned a total of seven golden gramophones to date, most recently in 2006 for her gospel album One Voice.